The Missing Fight Film

By Paul Gallender on December 13, 2014
The Missing Fight Film
This may have been the finest three-round fight in history, second only to Hagler-Hearns.

Asked what it felt like to be hit by Liston, Folley paused and said, “I can’t describe it. You would have to experience if for yourself…”

I’ve always wanted to see the film of the 1960 Sonny Liston-Zora Folley fight. Unfortunately, there isn’t one. That’s a damn shame for every boxing fan. This may have been the finest three-round fight in history, or second only to Hagler-Hearns. Both were wars.

Ranked #1 and #2, Liston and Folley were arguably the two best heavyweights in the world. If Zora had fought Floyd Patterson for the title in 1960, there’s a good chance we’d remember him today as a former heavyweight champion. His reign would have been a brief one because he would have had to fight Liston.

Many people think Ali’s 1967 knockout of Folley was Muhammad’s most impressive fight. Zora was a spent fighter by then, but it shows how highly regarded he was seven years past his prime. A master boxer like the 1960 Folley would have given the 1967 Ali a good fight and based on something Muhammad once said, I’m pretty sure he would concede that point.

Ninety five hundred and twenty two people were on hand to witness the bout. At 212½, Liston was a slight betting favorite. The 198½ pound Folley had a really good first round, a very bad second round, and a truly terrible 28-second third round. When he regained his senses in his corner, he asked Liston what had happened. “I knocked you out,” said Sonny. “Oh, now I remember,” replied Folley. “And they told me not to worry about your right hand.”

“I figured I’d make him miss but he didn’t miss enough,” Folley told the press a short time later. “I knew I could outbox him. I didn’t plan on opening up until the seventh or eighth round. But something happened. We didn’t do it. He’s too big, too strong, to let him crowd. I should have stayed out and boxed. He’s too strong.” Asked what it felt like to be hit by Liston, Folley paused and said, “I can’t describe it. You would have to experience if for yourself.”

Good rounds against Liston were a rare commodity from 1959 through 1963. That first round probably was the best round of Folley’s career because he won it, and won it impressively. The second round had to be his most courageous. He took an early 9-count, got up to mount a ferocious attack, only to have the bell save him at the count of nine. Folley had tested Liston, as Cleveland Williams had, but neither one of those talented fighters ever made it through the third round with him.

To fans of the heavyweights, the two Liston-Williams fights are fun to watch. We’d probably feel the same way about the Liston-Folley fight, if only we had gotten to see it.

Paul Gallender is the author of Sonny Liston – The Real Story Behind the Ali-Liston Fights.

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  1. Goldust 04:18pm, 07/23/2015

    @Irish “in my view the three greatest heavyweights of all time are Lennox Lewis and the Klitschko brothers.”

    It’s pathetic that there are people who actually believe this kind of drivel. The three greatest heavyweights of all time don’t get knocked out, in their prime no less, by guys like Rahman, McCall, C. Sanders, and Brewster. None of those guys ever saw the day that they could knock out the 40+ year old versions of Foreman or Holmes never mind what would have happened to them had they faced either one while they were at their best. For his part the front running Vitali showed his “heart of a champion” when he quit in a fight that he was winning handily against the feather fisted Byrd. Can anyone imagine hw champions like Ali, Holmes, Louis, Frazier, Holyfield, Dempsey, Marciano etc. quitting in similar circumstances against a fighter the caliber of Byrd?

  2. Alex 01:32am, 06/07/2015

    @Irish you are a moron
    Klitschko Brothers are ranked on 40 up to 50 place , maybe lower.

    Anybody from Liston , Foreman , Ali , Morrison , Holmes destroyed the Klitschkos. There are 50 or more Heavyweights who would destroyed Klitschko Brothers.

    Even none Champions would beat Klitschkos , worst heavyweights Champs
    of all time. No one will ever talk about a Klitschko in 10 years.

  3. beaujack 09:09pm, 12/15/2014

    Eric, I was fortunate to see the Rocky Marciano ko of Carmine Vingo at
    the old MSG in 1949…A fight I shall never forget in it’s brutality and
    near fatal tragedy….We sat in the first row side balcony over the ring
    and when the fighters entered the ring Vingo who I had seen fight before on my small tv set seemed to tower over the new “sensation” Rocky Marciano…I recall in the very first round Vingo who could punch landed a right uppercut on Marciano.s chin which seemed to lift the smaller Rocky off his feet, but Marciano was the “:real thing”, survived that wallop and proceeded to batter Carmine in the following rounds in a slugfest, until the final 6th round when the battered and brave Vingo, blood all over his head collapsed to the canvas…One thing I can never forget was Vingo
    out cold on his back with his I believe left foot twitching badly…They brought a stretcher in the ring and took him to a near hospital ,wheeling
    him there. Vingo was at death’s door for many weeks, but somehow survived this ordeal, but was using a cane I think for the rest of his life, living in Florida…A night my dad and I would never forget…

  4. Eric 01:02pm, 12/13/2014

    Irish…Sam Langford & Harry Greb would’ve beaten both Klit brothers. No problema. teehee.

  5. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 12:58pm, 12/13/2014

    Sonny Liston in brief: Two shameful, Godawful clusterfuks with Ali and two Kristallnachts with a deer in the headlights (Patterson) and lots of ugly looks in the meantime. I believe Mr. Clark has another book in him that could be titled “When Time Stood Still on”. For my part strictly speaking as a fan, I’m fairly certain, though not completely sold that Dempsey was the best for his time with Louis, Marciano, Ali, Holmes, Lewis, and the KBros definitely being the best for their times and here’s the best part….wait for it… my view the three greatest heavyweights of all time are Lennox Lewis and the Klitschko brothers.

  6. Eric 12:54pm, 12/13/2014

    GTC….Boxers and pro wrestlers seem to have short shelf lifes for sure. Both are two tough ways to earn a living. Just think that in the last couple of years, Lyle, Frazier, and Norton have all passed away.

    peter…I would like to see a film of Mac Foster knocking out Liston while the two sparred. Don’t know if that is a myth or a fact.

  7. peter 12:37pm, 12/13/2014

    Can anyone identfy the bout that I once viewed on reel-to-reel. It was Liston knocking out his former sparring partner/friend. It was a vicious, murderous one-punch knockout delivered by Liston with absolutely no mercy whatsoever. I’ve been trying to locate this film for years.

  8. George Thomas Clark 12:27pm, 12/13/2014

    Just check and sad to see Henry Clark died at age 55 in 2000.  Not many boxers live to be old, especially old and healthy.

  9. George Thomas Clark 12:24pm, 12/13/2014

    In fact, I once called Henry Clark for some boxing information and told him my last name was Clark, and he said, “That means you’re a winner.”  Henry Clark - not this raggedy Clark - was also a very sharp dresser - suits, hat, cane…a colorful guy.

  10. George Thomas Clark 12:23pm, 12/13/2014

    Henry Clark was pretty good.  He lived in my hometown Sacramento for awhile in the 1960s and 70s and I saw him train in the old Capital Boxing Gym down in the blighted Stockton Blvd. area.  He was at times a legitimate top 10 fighter.  Sonny was too powerful for him.

  11. Eric 12:15pm, 12/13/2014

    Sonny was ancient when he fought Martin, and even then, he was pretty much having his way with Leotis until getting caught. Liston beat Henry Clark during his comeback, Clark was a pretty decent fighter, not a world beater, but certainly a credible opponent.

  12. George Thomas Clark 12:06pm, 12/13/2014

    Martin’s right to Liston’s head was one of the hardest I’ve ever seen.

  13. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 11:58am, 12/13/2014

    In the years after Lewistown his resume was gossamer thin….the only real highlight was when Leotis turned out his lights.

  14. George Thomas Clark 11:54am, 12/13/2014

    Eric - in addition to his fists and reach, Sonny was (and is) perceived as large because of his musculature.  He’s much larger than a “borderline cruiserweight.”

  15. Eric 11:48am, 12/13/2014

    Some other missing fight films I would love to see include Graziano-Zale I & II (entire fight), Quarry-Mathis, DePaula-Tiger, Marciano-Vingo. I’m pretty sure that the entire Chuvalo-Bonavena fight exists but I’ve only seen short clips of that fight. Heard it was a boring fight, but I would like to see those two bruisers going at it.

  16. George Thomas Clark 11:45am, 12/13/2014

    Irish - I give 1959 Sonny at least a 50-50 chance against Wladimir who, despite many skills, probably could not have withstood Liston’s haymakers.

  17. Eric 11:12am, 12/13/2014

    A prime Liston would’ve been more than a match for nearly every heavyweight before him, and would have been one of the few past heavyweights that could’ve been successful against the super-sized heavies of today. Liston was roughly the same size as Mike Weaver or Evander Holyfield, actually an inch shorter than Evander. Somehow, Sonny is seen as a huge heavyweight, when in fact, at 6’1” and approximately 215lbs, he would have been an average sized heavyweight in the 70’s & 80’s and a borderline cruiserweight today. Liston had the reach and fists of a much larger man, but he certainly wasn’t that large of a fighter.

  18. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 11:11am, 12/13/2014

    Let me count the ways….four of his KOs were on the China Chin Twins, Patterson and Cleveland Williams…..he couldn’t dent Machen and Whitehurst in 32 rounds of fighting…..two gross and ugly losses to Ali….stops hapless Wepner and Besmanoff on cuts…..almost killed by Leotis Martin….78% KO ratio…6’ tall and 210 lbs soaking wet…..Tyson drives him right out of the ring…. Lennox and both K Bros KO his ass and that’s just for starters.

  19. Tex Hassler 09:55am, 12/13/2014

    Liston in his prime was unbeatable. He could punch but also had good boxing skills. He would have been a sure thing to be Champ today if he was here and in his prime.

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